IndyCar: Helio, RHR, Pagenaud, Carpenter take part in tire test at IMS


The first big domino in IndyCar’s Silly Season for 2014 may finally be about ready to topple over.

Simon Pagenaud has been at the center of rumors about departing his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team to find a new home among the series’ “Big 3” teams.

During today’s Firestone tire test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the fast Frenchman confirmed that he’s made his choice for 2015.

According to Curt Cavin of The Indianapolis Star, Pagenaud wouldn’t say which team would acquire his talents – only mentioning that “[the contract] is not fully done yet.”

Meanwhile, as Pagenaud bides his time, SPM is set to test several drivers next week on the Homestead-Miami Speedway road course; Cavin reports that they’re Rodolfo Gonzales, Rocky Moran Jr., and another to be announced later.

But for today, the main focus at the Brickyard was the test, which also featured Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport, Helio Castroneves of Team Penske (pictured), and Ed Carpenter of CFH Racing, the newly merged entity of his team and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing.

Naturally, with Hunter-Reay and Castroneves having duked it out this past May for victory in the Indianapolis 500, conversation turned toward their incredible battle that Hunter-Reay won.

“When you watch from outside the car, yeah, that was maybe marginal,” Hunter-Reay told about his electrifying duel with the Brazilian. “But when you’re going for the win at the Indy 500, you’ll do anything. That’s what was driving me. I was going wherever I could get the car.”

Hunter-Reay denied Castroneves what would have been his record-tying fourth ‘500’ win. But whereas Castroneves was visibly deflated in May, he seems to be at peace now.

“The only way to stop Ryan would have been to do something that I wouldn’t have been able to sleep with at night,” he said.

As for the CFH camp, today”s test served as a chance for the Ed Carpenter Racing and Fisher/Hartman sides to work together. Carpenter’s future teammate, SFHR pilot Josef Newgarden, also appeared in the team’s pit box to support the team.

Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images

Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.